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Gender and Leadership

Leadership and gender are believed not to be an issue anymore. However, this subject has been taken a close-up look upon only for the past few decades. There is a special term in economics “glass ceiling” that describes the matter of male leaders dominating business world and occupying senior positions. We progress toward equality but still have some prejudice toward women who chose to climb the career ladder instead of being just wives and mothers. Some people still believe that only men were born to lead and it is in their nature to strive for recognition and success. The male and female leadership styles are considered to be different, but “different” doesn’t necessarily mean worse or bad. A numerous research activities on this particular topic are an ongoing attempt to shed some light on how leadership is relevant to gender. The researchers have their own point of views on this controversial matter. To figure out why women’s strength and potential have been still questioned it is absolutely necessary to take a look at historical aspect of this phenomena as well as to analyze the situation nowadays.

Anne Pershel in her article on leadership and gender (2009) studied the factors driving the changes in the field as well as evolutionary aspects of the matter. The author tries to understand why there are so many women and very few of them are occupying the leading positions in the corporate world. She argues that earlier many people didn’t have a sufficient education and only a minority was believed to possess exquisite skill set making them stand out from the crowd. In addition, G.I. bill was a reason why leaders “shared the military’s command and control style”. Organizational layout was hierarchical and comprised many levels of management. In such a “command and control” environment mostly men were seen as leaders and their style of leadership was harsh and dominant. Later on women stepped into a management and had to learn and adjust to the existing leadership model (p.2).

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Karen Korabik and Roya Ayman (2007) use the term of “tokens” referring to women’s leadership before the new era of feminism and the times feminism emerged. Even though the number of women in senior seats has grown rapidly, the feminine leadership success stories are rather a unique happening than a generally accepted rule (Chin, 2007, p.106).

Trying to determine whether leadership has a male of female face it is worthy to refer several modern concepts developed on this particular topic. Anne Pershel (2009) focuses on the characteristics seen in male and female leaders. She argues that women need to possess some certain amount of masculinity and balance it with the sufficient characteristics of their feminine beginning. On the other hand, men got a lot more options on how to prove their leading skills and they are not measured by any social expectations. This results in a situation when women tend to watch out for their behavior more precisely to make sure they do not cross the line and obey the “higher standards” (Pershel, 2009, p.3). In the modern business world the companies and organizations require flexible and adjusting employees who can face the challenges of rapid technological development and align their personal qualities with the new standards. This is when “transformational leaders” come to the picture. During her dialogue with Carli which resulted in an article, Parshel (2009)figures out that this type of leadership becoming a benchmark for the organizations and determines their choice of candidates who are expected to “learn and adopt quickly”. While this kind of leaders encourage women’s leadership to be recognized and noticed, males are getting off their shoulders the burden of “aggressive and individualistic” stereotype. Summing up their conversation, Pershel and Carli (2009) emphasize that “personalities are driven by opportunities”. Thus, the individuals tend to grow the expertise needed to meet the targets and “address the challenges along the way”. The authors believe that the line between male and female roles in society and corporate world will continue to thinner allowing both to experience new horizons and opportunities despite their gender tag (Pershel, 2009).

There were different attempts to synthesize the prior historical models of gender and leadership. One of them belongs to Karen Korabik and Roya Ayman who develop their own “multiperspective model” integrating three concepts of “intrapsychic, social structural and interpersonal”. The main idea of a newly designed theory is to tailor the existing concepts into a comprehensive model addressing maximum factors of leadership in a gender-related midst. A fresh look on this persisting issue comprises a leadership “as a social interaction of leaders and their supervisors or subordinates. This synthesis is highly influenced by “gender-role orientation in all of the parties” and slightly softened by a large number of “contextual cues” (Korabik, 2007, p.109). The researchers suggest that in order to enhance a change in female leadership women need to understand the influence of corporate culture and gender prejudice in the working conditions (p.120). In addition, companies and organizations have to engage in the process of integration of various kinds of leadership as well encourage the “diversity of skills” and managerial styles among their employees (p.121).

The authors have three different perspectives on the matter. First one is intrapsychic where “masculine traits result in task-oriented while feminine ones conclude a person-oriented leadership”. They believe that regardless of regardless of social and demographic gender leaders’ gender-role orientation influences their behavior. We can see that integrated approach is vital when proceeding with such a sensitive topic. The study of gender and leadership is not just a sole assumption or one-vector analysis but a comprehensive blend of various theories and historical views on the matter.

The next step to forward the diverse concept of leadership is to analyze the different styles females and males use in a corporate sphere. A today’s woman is expected to combine a prominent career and a good care-taker resume. These expectations might be harder to meet; however, females struggle to get their place in the top corporate world. Hilary Brooks (2011) questions if “biologically more sensitive, emotional, and self-critical” females have less power than their male counterparts. The author quotes the American Psychological Association and mentions in her article that woman’s performance is close to “mentoring and coaching” when the male leadership is more harsh and controlling. These peculiarities determine the presence of more women among “transformational leaders” since they are better at “helping employees develop their skills and talents, motivating them, and coaching to be more creative”. Brooks accounts for Pew Research Center Social and Demographic studies which proved women to be more “more honest, compassionate, outgoing, and creative; all important traits those are a few of the most of effective leaders”. According to the information presented by this research, the participants point out several factors holding back women from their successful career paths and presenting them with more challenges rather than support. The main reasons are “gender discrimination, resistance to change and “old-boys club”. As a main point, Brooks (2011) acknowledges that “women leadership styles can be more effective and productive in today’s less hierarchical organizations, but in the mean time can destroy the traditional male setting in companies”. She adds that giving privilege to a male candidate over a female one prevents a talent acquisition practice from hiring gifted personalities and natural leaders. The position of the author is quite clear. We might express different thoughts and opinions but logic stands on the side of genuine assessment and appraisal of personal qualities and competencies of the job seeker.

Additionally, in his discussion paper Eduardo Melero (2004) exposed some of his findings on managerial differences compromised by gender. He contended that any overview of the research done in the last years about sex differences in managerial style must conclude that, although there may be mixed results in specific pieces of evidence, women’s style tend to be more people-oriented than that of men, with no difference in the general effectiveness of men and women as managers”. The author examines few leadership vectors and uses statistics from UK-based firms to back up his research and confirm the theories existing earlier about women being democratic and less autocratic leaders than men (Melero, 2004, p.22). He also discovered that managerial teams dominated by more women tend to gather more appraisals and encourage team members to strive for better performance. He concluded that women are better at “motivating and obtaining commitment from employees” (Molero, 2004, p.28). As we can see, gender differences do not have a direct impact on performance quality whether we talk about leaders or teams they manage.

The question of equal rights and opportunities at work has been of curiosity for many years. Despite the fact that we have many women nowadays as top leaders of multinational companies they are still minority in business world. If long time back prejudice and wrongful believes were holding back female leadership what keeps women away from accelerating their careers these days? We believe we do not judge a book by its cover but maybe we do. Women can comprise great leaders and climb the career ladder together with their male counterparts. However, family responsibilities can be one of the factors why some women still concentrate on their home rather than office. There are plenty of females who pull themselves together and try to build both a successful career and raise children. The price they pay for being recognized is higher since there are more obstacles on the way. There are different styles of leadership for male and female individuals. At the same time, none of them is superior to another one. These ways of managing the team are really different: women are more people-oriented when men are good at commanding the team. Multiple studies prove that there is no tag “right” or “wrong” we can put on managerial strategies of males and females. I agree that nowadays we go by opportunities present on the market, so individuals based on their career objectives and business needs of the companies can comprise a perfect match no matter whether they are men or women. 

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